Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3- Claudia

Today was a very busy and emotional day. We began the morning by traveling to Cite Soleil, the slum in Port Au Prince where LAMP for Haiti is located. Cite Soleil is one of the poorest slums in Haiti; there is no running water, little electricity and no sewage system. It is composed primarily of one story cement or wooden structures and tents. Cite Soleil used to have churches, schools and other buildings that were two stories, however, most of these were destroyed by the UN for fear of snipers. Cite Soleil was a dangerous area prior to the occupation of Haiti by UN forces in 2004, but has since stabilized for the most part. Although Port Au Prince is full of NGO’s providing relief to the people, there is a real lack of services in Cite Soleil because many of the organizations refuse to work there, in essence excluding the people with the most need from receiving aid. There are a lot of tenancy and land ownership issues in Cite Soleil because it is situated on public land and people “own” only the structures that they build. We have been conducting interviews in small groups with a translator. This morning my group interviewed a man named Casimir who has been living in Cite Soleil since 1978. Although at one point he owned seven houses which he rented for income, most of those properties have now been destroyed either by gangs or the 2010 earthquake. Casimir now lives in a large blue tent and cooks in the partially collapsed structure that was once his home. He took us to visit his tent, and I was shocked by how hot it was- almost unbearable- I can’t image sleeping in it. We also took a tour of the medical clinic located at LAMP where they provide pharmaceuticals and diagnostic testing. There was a little girl there who was near starvation, which was very sad to see. Her father was waiting there with her to get a special supplemental peanut butter that LAMP provides for malnourished children. It is heartbreaking to see such severe devastation. After interviews in Cite Soleil, we went to downtown Port Au Prince where we met with several Americans working at Beaure Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) This is a legal organization that partners with grassroots organizations to support the people and stabilize the legal system. The women that we met with worked on housing issues and women’s rights. Rape is prevalent in the displacement camps in Haiti and is under prosecuted so BAI is attempting to empower women and strengthen the legal system by investigating and prosecuting cases. BAI is also working on a periodic review which will be submitted to the United Nations of the human rights conditions in Haiti. We also visited a museum of Haitian history which was fascinating; Haiti has such a rich history but has been plagued by many problems. After returning to the guesthouse that we are staying at, we decompressed and took notes about our interviews for the day, then engaged in a rousing round of Taboo, 1990s version, which somehow found its way down here. Remember beepers and disquettes?

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